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Master Deep Breathing for Better Sleep: Exercises and Benefits

Ana Marie Schick Jan 05, 2023

Benefits of deep breathing exercises

Stress is a common experience caused by various factors such as work pressure, financial issues, mental health conditions or problems, and relationship difficulties. Coping with stress can be challenging.

So, how do you combat stress? In some circumstances, you can address its external causes. For example, if your tax return stresses you out, you should file it as soon as possible to get the weight off your mind.

But stress can also be avoided by lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and a healthier diet.

One of the simplest ways to reduce stress is deep breathing. Unlike other lifestyle changes, deep breathing can be done anytime and anywhere.

Below, we've explored stress and how to reduce stress, focusing on the benefits of deep-breathing techniques and three easy exercises to get you started.

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Boost your morning energy with the right combination of deep breathing exercises and the comfort of a Chilipad sleep system.

What is Deep Breathing?

Deep breathing, otherwise known as diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing, is a form of breathing achieved by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located under the lungs. In contrast, shallow breathing - something you're probably doing right now - happens without conscious effort.

That's not to say shallow, deep breathing techniques or “chest breathing” are always bad. After all, life would be very difficult if we had to concentrate in order to breathe.

But this low-effort type of breathing has its limitations. When we take shallow breaths, we don't completely fill our lungs with air, and the reduced oxygen intake can make us feel more anxious and stressed.

Although it might feel strange to engage your lower abdomen while breathing, taking deep, diaphragm-focused breaths maximizes the amount of oxygen getting into your bloodstream, which produces important benefits, including relaxation, reduced blood pressure, and heart rate. [1]

Stress and Its Role in Disease Progression

Stress significantly impacts our overall health, even though it's an unseen force. It's not just about feeling overwhelmed or anxious; stress can actually alter the way our body fights diseases.

When we're stressed, our immune system can become erratic, leaving us more vulnerable to illnesses and exacerbating existing health conditions. It's interesting (and a bit alarming) how our emotional and physical well-being are so closely interconnected!

According to a 2013 study, 60-80% of primary care visits are stress-related, yet only 3% of patients receive stress management help. [2]

Deep Breathing Benefits

Practicing deep breathing throughout the day is difficult, but setting aside time to concentrate on your air intake provides significant health benefits.

Deep breathing provides many amazing health benefits. One of the greatest benefits, deep breathing helps reduced high blood pressure, which in turn lowers the risk of diseases like stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure. [3]

Research has shown that just 30 seconds of deep breathing can reduce systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and pulse rate. [4]

Another positive effect of regular deep breathing is increased heart rate variability, which is a sign of good overall heart health. [5] A recent study found that regular deep breathing significantly improves heart rate variability, which also boosts survival rates in heart disease patients suffering from diabetes.

The mental health benefits complement the physiological benefits of deep breathing. Using the diaphragm to breathe deeply can help you shake off the “fight or flight” response to stress and trigger the body's natural relaxation response, making you feel calmer.

Deep breathing before sleep and activating this relaxation response will help improve the quality of your rest, as stress regularly leads to difficulty sleeping.

basic meditation techniques

Basic Breathing Technique

Deep breathing involves drawing your shoulders back and breathing in slowly through the nose, drawing in enough air so that your belly rises before exhaling slowly through the mouth.

This can feel a little uncomfortable at first, as we're used to keeping our bellies flat when we want to control our posture. It's much easier to take deep breaths when sitting or even lying down.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate Nostril Breathing, known as Nadi Shodhana in traditional yogic practices, is a controlled breathing technique that involves alternating the flow of breath through each nostril. This is achieved by using the fingers to gently close one nostril while inhaling or exhaling through the other.

The process typically begins with a deep breath, followed by closing the right nostril to inhale through the left, then closing the left to exhale through the right, and vice versa.

This practice of breath exercises is believed to balance the brain's two hemispheres, calm the mind, enhance concentration, and improve overall respiratory function and relaxation.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic Breathing, commonly known as belly breathing, is a very deep inhalation breathing technique that actively engages the diaphragm, a large muscle at the base of the lungs.

When you breathe in using this method, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward, creating more space for the lungs to expand. This results in a deeper inhalation, as opposed to shallow chest breathing.

As you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and moves upward, helping to expel a larger amount of fresh air from the lungs. This type of breathing not only improves the oxygenation of the blood but also promotes relaxation and stress reduction by activating the body's parasympathetic nervous system.

4-7-8 Breathing

Many people find it helpful to time their inhalations and exhalations to achieve precise control over their deep breathing. 4-7-8 breathing, which is inspired by relaxation techniques in a yoga practice called pranayama, consists of the following steps:

  1. Inhale through your nose and count to four seconds, filling your lungs
  2. Hold your breath for seven seconds
  3. Exhale through your mouth over eight seconds

Counting while breathing adds another layer of defense against stress, as it forces your mind to focus on the time passing rather than on any racing thoughts or stress relief you may be experiencing.

Box breathing

Box Breathing Exercises

Box Breathing, also referred to as square breathing, is a simple and effective way to help reduce stress and anxiety, while it can promote relaxation It involves inhaling, holding your breath, exhaling, and holding again, each for an equal amount of time.

This technique is called square breathing because the breath pattern forms a square shape. Box breathing is often used by athletes, military personnel, and people in high-stress jobs to improve focus, increase energy, and regulate emotions. By practicing box breathing, you can calm your mind, reduce tension in your body, and improve overall mental well-being.

Interested in trying Box Breathing for relaxation and focus? Explore our easy-to-follow Box Breathing exercise, a simple yet powerful technique for mental clarity.

If you're new to Box Breathing and curious to learn more about how it can benefit you. It's an excellent resource for understanding and practicing this effective relaxation technique.

Rib-Stretch Breathing

Rib-stretch breathing is a deep breathing exercise that emphasizes the expansion of the ribcage. By wrapping your arms around your upper chest, and placing your palms flat against your sides, you create a physical awareness of your ribcage.

You can feel your ribs expanding and contracting as you breathe deeply with each breath. This technique enhances the flow of air in and out of your lungs and helps stretch and relax the muscles around the ribcage.

It's particularly effective in opening up the chest area, allowing for fuller, deeper breaths.

Meditation Exercises

Meditation exercises are a powerful tool for aligning your mental and physical well-being. By focusing your mind through various techniques, your body naturally follows into a state of relaxation.

This can particularly benefit those new to meditation and deep breathing exercises. Our selection of beginner-friendly breathing exercises is designed to ease you into the practice, helping you find calmness and tranquility.

These exercises are a gentle introduction to the world of meditation, guiding you toward a more relaxed and centered state of being.

Give the following a try!

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Relaxation is a technique that combines deep breathing with a systematic tightening and releasing of different muscle groups throughout the body. This method involves taking deep breaths and, as you then exhale slowly, consciously relaxing a specific muscle group, starting from one end of the body and moving progressively to the other.

For example, you might start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your feet, then gradually work your way up to your head. The process promotes relaxation and relief, enhances body awareness, and helps identify areas of tension.

Make Time for Deep Breathing

Incorporating deep breathing exercises into your daily routine can have numerous benefits for your physical and mental health. However, it can be challenging to remember to take the time to breathe deeply and fully. That's where setting an alarm or timer can be helpful.

By scheduling designated times throughout the day, you can ensure that you are taking regular breaks to focus on your breath and fully reap the benefits of deep breathing.

When your alarm goes off, don't just hit snooze or rush to turn it off. Instead, take a moment to engage in a few rounds of breathing exercises. These can include simple techniques such as inhaling deeply for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of four, and then exhaling for a count of four. Repeat this pattern several times, focusing on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body.

By making deep breathing a regular part of your routine, you can reduce stress, improve your mood, and increase your overall sense of well-being. So set that alarm and take a few minutes each day to focus on your breath. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

Final Thought

As we've explored deep breathing exercises for stress reduction, we've uncovered various techniques, each with unique benefits. From improving sleep quality, enhancing calmness to improving focus, these simple yet effective practices offer a gateway to better management and overall health.

Whether you're just beginning or seeking to enrich your existing practice, the path of mindfulness-based stress reduction and relief through mindful breathing is both empowering and life-enhancing, opening doors to greater relaxation and inner peace.


[1] Cleveland Clinic. (2019). Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises & Techniques | Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from Cleveland Clinic website. View Resource

[2] Nerurkar A, Bitton A, Davis RB, Phillips RS, Yeh G. When physicians counsel about stress: results of a national study. JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Jan 14;173(1):76-7. doi: 10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.480. PMID: 23403892; PMCID: PMC4286362.

[3] MORI, H., YAMAMOTO, H., KUWASHIMA, M., SAITO, S., UKAI, H., HIRAO, K., … UMEMURA, S. (2005). How Does Deep Breathing Affect Office Blood Pressure and Pulse Rate? Hypertension Research, 28(6), 499–504. View Study

[4] Russo M. A., Santarelli D. M., O’Rourke D. (2017). The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Breathe 13 (4), 298–309. 10.1183/20734735.009817

[5] Kulur, A. B., Haleagrahara, N., Adhikary, P., & Jeganathan, P. S. (2009). Effect of diaphragmatic breathing on heart rate variability in ischemic heart disease with diabetes. Arquivos brasileiros de cardiologia, 92(6), 423–463. View Study